When I joined the ICSOM Governing Board in 2002, a top priority was to bring our orchestras together to discuss electronic media. We recognized that the ICSOM Media Committee had to be expanded and become more diverse, while also being inclusive of the many viewpoints within ICSOM. We also knew that we needed a chair who was an expert and was well respected within ICSOM and the AFM. Our unanimous choice was Bill Foster. Luckily for us he accepted and then led ICSOM and the Media Committee through several difficult yet important years, culminating in the Integrated Media Agreement (IMA).
Whether it was as the ICSOM media committee chair, chair of his negotiating committee within the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO), or as AFM-EPF trustee, Bill always represented his colleagues with the utmost integrity, professionalism, patience, and good humor. During bargaining sessions, Bill had facts and figures “at the ready” and used his articulate persuasiveness to change even the most intransigent positions from the other side. Yet, I know of no other person that remains to this day as well respected and admired by everyone, regardless of their position.
Several years ago I met with former ICSOM Counsel Lenny Leibowitz in his office at Local 802. His walls were covered with framed photographs of orchestras signed by the musicians he had represented. In the center of one wall was a photograph of the NSO picket line from 1978—with Maestro Rostropovich marching in solidarity, arm-in-arm with Fred Zenone and Bill, as the police prepared to arrest NSO musicians. While proud of all orchestras, Lenny turned and with a smile made special mention of those negotiations and the tremendous leadership role that Bill played.
As Bill celebrates his fiftieth and final year with the NSO, I would like to take this opportunity to thank him for all he has done for musicians across the country. Never has such a mild-mannered and soft-spoken individual made such an emphatic difference in the lives of so many musicians!
Bill, congratulations on your retirement, and thank you for being here for all of us.
Note: The Author is ICSOM President Emeritus and ICSOM Electronic Media Committee Chair.